In the gangster rap explosion of the early ’90s, a few performers stood out from the crowd. Names like Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dog became hip-hop legend. Then there was 2Pac, a rising star among stars. 2Pac’s Greatest Hits (Death Row) shows what made him a star and gives listeners a glimpse at what he might have accomplished if he had not been killed.
The two-disc album demonstrates the broad spectrum of 2Pac’s work. Sure, the album includes typical gangster rap songs about money, guns and women. The well-known “I Get Around” and his duet with Snoop Doggy Dog on “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” fall into this category.
Many of 2Pac’s songs, however, transcend the formulaic approach many hip-hop artists have followed. Instead, he takes a deeper approach and uses lyrics to create chilling pictures of ghetto life. One of the best examples of 2Pac’s complex approach to rap is the anthem “To Live and Die in L.A.” The haunting song “Brenda’s Got A Baby” gives one of the strongest and most compelling views of youth life in ghettos today.
Other songs adopt a more optimistic, hopeful approach. These songs also serve to delineate him from other rappers. Songs like “Keep Ya Head Up” and “Dear Mamma” dispel the negative stereotype of rap lyrics.
Some tracks on the album are frighteningly prophetic of 2Pac’s own death. For example, the hit “I Ain’t Mad At Cha” pictured 2Pac singing from heaven in the music video. The album also includes “How Long Will They Mourn Me” – the title alone says enough. Created as a tribute to the Notorious B.I.G., another victim of violence, “God Bless the Dead” takes on new meaning following 2Pac’s own death
Many hip-hop artists sound the same – same lyrics, same beats – only the names are different. 2Pac used his music to comment on society, to provide inspiration and hope, and laid down a great groove all at once. 2Pac’s Greatest Hits features music from a hip-hop legend whose work was truly original.